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Sweet treats and family meals are a hallmark of the holidays,
but for many of our furry friends, these same indulgences can be
dangerous. Dr. Mark Stickney, Director of General Surgery Services
at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine
& Biomedical Sciences, tells us how we can keep our pets safe
while enjoying the holiday season.
One of the major food dangers to our pets during the holidays
and beyond is chocolate. Eating chocolate, especially dark
chocolate, can cause toxicity in dogs and cats, which can result in
"While chocolate is toxic to both dogs and cats we see chocolate
toxicity much more often in dogs. This is simply because dogs are
much more likely to eat it. However, it is important to keep it
away from all pets just in case," notes Stickney. Although
chocolate has long been a known toxin for dogs, other foods and
vegetation can also be very harmful.
"Few people know this, but both grapes and raisins can cause
renal failure in dogs," states Stickney. "Another thing to note is
that Easter lilies, or really any flower from the lily family, can
cause kidney failure in cats."
While these foods are especially dangerous, feeding any table
scraps to your pets can cause them harm in the long-run. Because of
this, Stickney stresses the importance of keeping your pet's diet
"During the holidays it is common for friends and family members
to slip your pets food under the table. While they think they are
giving them a nice treat, the high fat content of most table scraps
can not only cause weight control problems, but can also cause
pancreatitis," says Stickney.
In order to avoid these situations, Stickney suggests that you
ask any guests to avoid the temptation of feeding your dogs table
scraps and explain to them the risks associated.
"Most people are more than willing to respect your wishes,
especially when they know the health concerns," Stickney notes. "Of
course children are another story. The only thing you can do is
watch them like a hawk."
Even if they are not given food, pets can sometimes find it
themselves. It is not uncommon in the commotion and food
preparation of the holidays to find your animal knee-deep in your
"It's important to remember to always keep you trash closed with
a lid or put somewhere your animal cannot reach it," states
Stickney. "If they do get into it you may have a sick animal on
your hands and no way of knowing what and how much they ate."
While it is best to keep your animals on their regular diet,
Stickney does say that there are some foods that are safe for pets
"If you absolutely have to give them something off of your
plate, hand them a green bean," says Stickney. "Plain vegetables
and unbuttered, unsalted popcorn are both pretty harmless since
they are mostly fiber and don't contain a lot of extra
Although toxic food is a major concern for your pets during the
holiday season, other common substances and smells can also harm
them during this time.
"Birds are very sensitive to anything they can inhale. During
the holidays people like to burn smelly candles and our guests may
want to smoke, but these types of irritants can give our winged
companions the bird version of a cold," states Stickney.
Another thing to keep in mind, as the weather gets colder and
you start changing your anti-freeze to keep your dogs away from
"Anti-freeze has a sweet taste to it that dogs seem to like.
Unfortunately it is extremely toxic and can cause renal failure,"
The important thing to remember is that your pets are part of
your family. By keeping an eye out and avoiding over-feeding you
can make sure the entire family is enjoying the season.
Angela G. Clendenin
Director, Communications & Public Relations
Ofc - (979) 862-2675
Cell - (979) 739-5718
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843
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